Eluru mystery illness caused by pesticide particles, finds probe
24 December 2020
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Indian Institute of Chemical Technology and other institutes probing the mystery illness that affected hundreds of people, mostly students, in Eluru in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, have concluded that the traces of lead and nickel found in the blood samples of the affected were due to pesticide poisioning.
However, they said, more research woukd be required to establish how these pesticide particles entered the human body.
The mystery illness had affected over 600 people and caused the death of one person.
A statement issued by the Andhra Pradesh government on Wednesday said, “Experts from AIIMS and Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have opined that particles of pesticides are the reason for Eluru's mysterious illness. The experts pointed out that a long-term study is required to find out how those particle materials could have entered into the human bodies. The CM has tasked the further study on the case to AIIMS and IICT.”
The AIMS team of experts who participated in the virtual review of the situation with the CM said, "On observation of patients it appears that this situation has arisen due to organochlorine it might have occurred due to pesticides, there is possibility of that entering into the human body due to food cycle." Organochlorine pesticides are highly toxic synthetic pesticides used in agriculture. Some of the compounds belonging to organochlorine are reportedly banned in some developing countries but continue to be used.
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) experts said that all the metals are found in limited quantities in the ground water, except for mercury which was more than the prescribed limits. NEERI officials, however, stated that they have not found any organochlorine, organo sulphate or lead in the samples.
World Health Organisation representative Dr Ashish asked the team of experts from AIMS and NICT to examine how those particles have entered human bodies.
An official communique from the government said chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has directed health officials to conduct tests at regular intervals in each district. He also directed them to take necessary measures based on test results on food, water and soil.
The CM has further directed the chief secretary to prepare a plan of action to prevent similar incidents in the state and asked officials to push for organic farming in the state.
Earlier, the test samples from the victims revealed the presence of heavy substances like lead and nickel. Subsequently, vegetables, milk, drinking water, fruits and soil samples were collected from the region to probe how these substances could have entered their bodies.
Those fell ill exhibited symptoms of epileptic seizure, forgetfulness, headache, backache, anxiety and nausea. Along with AIIMS, National Institute of Nutrition, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, National Institute for Disease Control and National Institute of Virology were working to establish the cause of the illness.
To handle the crisis, a team from the World Health Organization and over 62 medical teams were deployed in Eluru.